Is running bad for your knees? For many, running is the ultimate stress relief. It gets the blood pumping, stimulates the brain, and helps you get better shut-eye. That’s until you end up with joint and knee pain.

These aches are classic complaints among professional and recreational runners. Is running the culprit? How does running affect the knees and what can you do to protect them? The guideline below will answer all your queries. 

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How Bad is Running For Your Knees?

Running isn’t bad for the knees – bad form is. Many people run with poor form and this is putting a heavy strain on the knees. Poor lower body posture means poor upper body posture. A bad form means tilting the hips sideways or tilting the head backward. To maintain good form when running, you should focus the gaze forward and engage the core.

When it comes to running form, to reduce the risk of injuries to the lower body, don’t hit the ground with the heel. Use the midfoot strike instead. So, when your body is moving forward, the foot lands right under the hip. Whereas grounding with the heel might force the leg to slow down the stride. Therefore, putting stress on the knees.

  • Is running bad for your knees if you are overweight? Running doesn’t seem to damage the knees. But, if you are well over 20 pounds overweight or you recently had knee surgery, you shouldn’t be jumping right into a running routine. Do exercises that the body can handle.

Why Do Knees Hurt After Running?

For those still wondering is running bad for the knees, it’s important to talk about injuries that can happen when running. According to research, pain around the kneecap is typically a classic sign of overuse. You might have exposed the knee to frequent or excessive strain. 

This can happen in people who do sports like running, intensive cycling, mountaineering, and jogging. This is what experts call “runner’s knee”. It feels like aching, dull pain on the knee. And it’s very obvious when you bend your knee or try to walk up and down the stairs.

There are many reasons why the knees hurt after running. For example:

  • You have bad posture when running, forcing the weaker muscles to overcompensate. 
  • You are not fit to run a great distance. 
  • You don’t stretch enough or at all.
  • You keep pushing the body beyond its limits. 
  • You don’t have proper running shoes.

Proper rest can provide relief. So, how much running is enough? It’s good to go at your own pace. Even 5 to 10 minutes of running per day at a slow speed can offer heart health benefits. It is a convenient physical activity for weight loss, better bone structure, and psychological and emotional well-being. It helps the heart pump blood more efficiently and curbs the LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Does Running Strengthen Knees?

Running is a lot more labor intensive on the knees compared to walking. Running doesn’t ruin the knees. Rather, all the work you put into it can bulk up and fortify the cartilage. So, it may have the potential to stave off arthritis. 

Is running bad for your knees if you have arthritis? There is a common misconception that running causes knee osteoarthritis (OA). Or having the condition can stop you from running. But, this is not the case. In one trial, patients 50 years or older, with knee OA used running to test its benefits. Based on the results, running helped improve their knee pain without worsening the aches.

Should You Bend Your Knees When Running?

Many runners keep their legs straight in front of them as they land. This can make the knees and legs prone to injuries. When running, keep the knees bent during the support and landing phase of the stride. Always remember to bend the knees, look forward, relax the arms and take small steps. Land on the balls of the feet to avoid injuring the toes. 

How Can I Run Without Damaging My Knees?

Running on uneven ground, like dirt roads and rural roads increases the torque in the knees. It would be in your best interest to run in areas where there is smooth ground, like pavements. Wearing running shoes can keep you on the right track. Quality running shoes could have a positive impact on athletic performance. 

Whereas a poorly fitted shoe could cause knee problems. A softer midsole can decrease impact force and load rates. While thicker midsoles can be better at cushioning and reducing plantar sensations of the foot.

To choose running shoes, think of the surface you will be running on. For example:

  • When training on pavements, road shoes can be a good choice. 
  • Running on rougher edges or long distances requires lightweight or trail race shoes. They might curb the risk of injury and offer better shock absorption.
  • Running through muddy and soft trails is best done with trail shoes with a deep tread. Particularly products with adequate ankle and grip support. 

For a more notable impact, it’s best to do knee stretches and strengthening exercises. They are a practical method for improving the flexibility of the muscles that surround the knee. That includes the abductors, adductors, hamstrings, quadriceps, buttocks, and calf muscles. 

Do a couple of stretches after a workout to better the range of motion of the knee joint and curb the soreness. You can also use stretches before working out, as it can warm up the muscles. Options like squats, hamstring stretch, and quadriceps stretch can help.

Also, don’t forget to listen to your body. If your knees or any other part of the body starts to hurt, and it’s well beyond the typical soreness – then it is time for a break. Rest is just as important as any other injury prevention strategy. 

Of course, resting for a little while won’t make you fall out of shape. But, it could make a major difference between a fast recovery and having to wait a very long time to heal from a severe injury. 

How Do Runners Take Care of Their Knees?

Want to know how to protect the knees when running? While running can be an efficient method of keeping the body in tip-top shape, it’s also important to take the necessary precautions and take good care of the knees. Although you can’t eliminate the possibility of injuries, you can reduce the odds of knee damage. Here are a couple of tips to protect the knees when running.

Consider Orthotic Aids

Wearing a knee strap can help decrease the impact running has on the knees. It can curb the strain on the hard-working tendon, while at the same time it offers some stability and support. The purpose of a knee strap is to provide compression to avoid unnecessary knee instability. 

The adjustable band can apply some pressure on the patellar tendon and better align it with the kneecap. This can be a practical approach when dealing with occasional pain. But, if the pain persists, it is best to talk to a physical therapist. 

Use Cold or Hot Therapy 

If there is an acute injury, like tears, strains, sprains, or inflammation and aches, cold therapy can ease the discomfort. You can use a bag of frozen veggies or crushed ice and position it on the hurt knee. Let it rest for a couple of minutes at a time. While heat therapy is best for warming up the muscles and reducing morning stiffness. 

Take Your Time

Every experienced runner spent time and effort to be able to run long distances. If you take it slow, you can also reap the benefits. But, because people want results, and they want them fast, they rush their training, which causes burnout. The knees can suffer from overwork. 

The right way to do it is to slowly and steadily increase your running distance and time. Tailor your running routine based on your current capabilities. If you have never done a serious workout like running, start with a 20-30 min walk. Take longer walks (40 min to 1 hour) on the weekends and then start running. 

Drink More Water

Ever felt heavy when you run? This is where water can help. It’s critical to hydrate the body when running. You will be losing fluid through sweat. Without drinking water, the blood volume could become thicker, making you feel more exhausted than usual. 

So, how much water should you drink? Adequate fluid consumption while running is 4-6 ounces of fluid every 20 min. If you are running fast, drink 6 to 8 ounces. Water is crucial to avoid dehydration. So, aim at drinking enough water when you run. 

We hope you enjoyed this article on the subject of is running bad for your knees, we hope you learned something!

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5473370/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK561507/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4131752/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6095814/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7039038/

About the Author: Zoe Taylor

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Zoe Taylor has a degree in Sports and Exercise Science and is an avid runner and fitness writer. Zoe works with BodyCapable by researching and writing cardio-related content. In her spare time, Zoe runs marathons, keeps up to date with the latest fitness trends, and enjoys walking her dog!